The roots of the New Orleans burlesque run deeply, back to the late 1990s when troupes such as the Shim Shamettes brought striptease back to the French Quarter. Ronnie Magri, the bandleader for the seven-piece group that provided the soundtrack for the Shim Sham Revue. Sixteen years later, Magri, a former drummer in a glam-punk band in New York City, is being honored as the “Guest of Honor” at BurlyCon 2015 this weekend (Nov. 12-15) in Seattle.
Pin Curl magazine posted an interview with Magri back in August, but it started to resurface as this weekend approached, so I thought it would be fun to post here. Those days in the late 1990s were pretty amazing, indeed. David Cuthbert in the Times-Picayune and I in Gambit Weekly were thrilled to chronicle this renaissance, which tied together some key figures who are still around today, including Marcy Hesseling (who now owns Fifi Mahony’s) and husband Ryan (a key figure in One Eyed Jacks, formerly the Shim Sham Club). It also helped lead to the bringing of Tease-O-Rama to New Orleans (hat tip to Alison Fensterstock) as well as a bringing back of the Bourbon Street legends of the heyday.
This is what Ronnie Magri had to say on that to Pin Curl:
Amazing! We were fortunate enough to still have them living around the New Orleans area and willing to help us out with our show. In 1999, when we first started out, their knowledge of how a real burlesque show should be was a big help to our success in keeping the shows authentic. Kitty was there with us from the beginning keeping watch, teaching the dancers how to walk, how to move. Kitty and I had discussions about what music she had danced to. She put me in touch with some of her former musicians. I had the honor of recording, for the first time, her signature theme song “Oyster Girl” for my album and helped re-create Kitty’s “Evangeline the Oyster Girl” number. And with Wild Cherry, we re-created her “Treasure of the Orient” number that she performed on Bourbon Street in the 1960s. We did some pretty cool stuff together with them. I feel very lucky to have known and worked with those women.
The heritage of New Orleans burlesque lives on in Bustout Burlesque, produced b Rick Delaup, but also in all of the amazing burlesque troupes around New Orleans.
Again, here’s a link to the interview.